David Bowie made no secret of his huge admiration for The Velvet Undergound throughout his career, a fascination that began after his then manager Ken Pitt had visited Andy Warhol’s Factory studio and returned to London with a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico.
So, when Bowie was to eventually become friends with Lou Reed, John Cale and co it’s little surprise that they ended up collaborating. In 1978, during a long, frivolous and somewhat debauched session in New York City, Cale and Bowie put down some recordings of their jam session.
On one recording of a bootleg single on the back cover of the 45 rpm 7”, a description read:
“On October 5, 1979, David Bowie and John Cale went into the Ciarbis studio, which is located on top of a house or apartment complex in the city of New York. They recorded some songs there. Here are some results of these uniQue rehearsals!!”
According to Cale’s own words, his artistic relationship with Bowie was so strong that he could never produce his work. Instead, the duo repeated to have fun with it, playing a few live shows and secretly jamming together.
“David and I didn’t actually meet until I first went back to New York, after I’d done Patti [Smith]. When we did that bootleg, it was like the good old bad old days. We were partying very hard. It was exciting working with him, as there were a lot of possibilities and everything, but we were our own worst enemies at that point,” Cale has previously said,
“We also played that show for Steve Reich and Philip Glass. That was a lot of fun. That was when we were hanging out, so I asked David if he’d like to come and play Sabotage with me. I ended up teaching him the viola part, which he had a whack at and then ended up playing on stage for the first time.
“Did I ever want to produce Bowie? After spending time with him, I realised the answer was no. The way we were then would have made it too dangerous. Nowadays it would be different, though. He could improvise songs very well, which was what that bootleg was all about. The great thing about when we met and then started hanging out in the ’70s was that he would say [puts on thick Welsh accent] “That’s Dai Jones from Wales, isn’t it?” He loved all that. That set us off. We got along really well, but most of what we were doing was just partying.”